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Why Do Duplexes Exist? (Here’s Why)

It sounds like a strange hobby, I admit, but I love to look at local property available in my area, even though I’m not looking to move anytime soon.

And not just in my area, either. Sometimes I’ll enter a random zip code into a nationwide property company and see what’s up for grabs somewhere on the other side of the country.

I like houses.

I like looking at where people live, and what they’ve done with their properties, and whether I could see myself living there.

One type of house I often see up for grabs is a duplex, but I’ve never really understood what one is.

So, I did a little digging and here’s what I found.

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What’s a Duplex?

Put simply, a duplex is a single building that’s been split into two separate homes.

So, you’ll either see the house split vertically down the middle, with one family on the left, the other on the right, or split horizontally, with one family living above the other.

In the UK, they’re known as semi-detached houses if they’re side by side, or maisonettes if they’re stacked.

In the US, you can even get them split both horizontally and vertically, leaving four separate dwellings in the one building.

These are fourplexes, but they’re pretty rare and it sounds more like they’re heading into apartment-block territory, which isn’t what we’re looking at here.

So, what is it about duplexes that made them so popular? With estimates that up to 20% of Americans live in one, why do duplexes exist, and what’s the appeal? 

Why do Duplexes exist?

Duplexes seem to have conveniently filled the gap between an apartment, and a house.

It’s thought that back in the 1920s and 1930s, apartment blocks were undesirable, because people didn’t like the way they looked.

They preferred the neat appearance of single houses, so architects combined the two ideas, by splitting single houses into two living spaces.

They began to pop up all over the USA at toward the beginning of the twentieth century, and were built in up-and-coming industrial areas that started to attract more and more workers from out of town. 

People who came looking for work often left their families behind so when they arrived to their new neighborhood, they were on the lookout for somewhere to stay without having to rent an entire house.

So, duplexes often housed single people, mostly men, who lived side-by side in the same housing unit. 

That didn’t mean duplexes were only for those without families, though. Over time, they became a popular choice for younger families and remain so today.

What’s the appeal of a duplex?

A duplex is a good choice for those who would rather not live in an apartment block, but who may also not be able to afford a house on its own. It’s a good compromise: share a house, but with only one other person or family.

Some duplexes have two doors, leaving the two renting parties separate entrances.

However, some also have a single entrance, so that both parties share a communal space inside, before using separate doors into their living space. 

This means that there’s still a sense of privacy in the house, but at the same time many feel happy that there’s someone else in the building, and they’re not as isolated as they would be if they lived in a house completely alone.

Another appeal is the space outside of the house.

Any garden or yard area around the duplex would only be shared between two households, as opposed to many households in the case of an apartment block.

Are duplexes still being built?

Duplexes remain a popular choice of construction for plenty, including both large companies and even lone investors wanting to get onto the property ladder.

As for landlords, they always love a good duplex investment.

After all, it’s two rents for the price of one house! 

Duplexes can be an especially good idea for those with aging parents… it means they’re on hand to help Mom and Dad if necessary, without the difficulties that come with having them in the home directly.

It would appear we still love a Duplex over here, and they’re here to stay!